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Motivating, developing and retaining talent through job enrichment: an exploration of “side-of-desk” projects in a corporate environment

Carla Thomas (Chester Business School, University of Chester, Chester, UK)
Lisa Rowe (Chester Business School, University of Chester, Chester, UK)
Neil Moore (Chester Business School, University of Chester, Chester, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 25 December 2023

Issue publication date: 21 February 2024




Global talent shortages, new skill demand and rising numbers of unfilled posts are fuelling an increasingly challenging job market, exacerbated by economic uncertainty and transformational digital change. Seeking creative solutions in response, the authors examine talent management’s (TM) theoretical and conceptual foundations, specifically the identification and selection of talent and TM programme design to explore the challenges and benefits of side-of-desk projects as interventions.


Taking an inductive qualitative approach, questionnaires, focus groups and semi-structured interviews gathered data from three employee groups in a UK digital communications organisation.


The authors reveal inconsistencies in the definition and selection of talent, highlighting programme quality challenges to expose a direct correlation between participant experience and motivation and retention, along with the longer-term challenges of balancing talented human capital, shareholder expectations and sustainable workforce resourcing.


The authors' research extends existing knowledge concerning the effect of organisational culture, context and workforce demands upon TM programmes, providing theoretical and practical implications for leaders and policymakers in designing enrichment activities to motivate, develop and retain talent. The authors make recommendations to inform the future design of TM programmes, revealing new opportunities to develop hidden talent and presenting a realistic and sustainable toolkit for future practice in the form of an organisational logic model.



The supporting data are not publicly available due to the highly sensitive and commercial nature of the research. The data comprise un-redacted questionnaires and transcripts that contain information that could compromise the privacy of research participants and reveal the organisation’s identity. No funding has been received in relation to this research.


Thomas, C., Rowe, L. and Moore, N. (2024), "Motivating, developing and retaining talent through job enrichment: an exploration of “side-of-desk” projects in a corporate environment", Employee Relations, Vol. 46 No. 2, pp. 250-268.



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